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G100 Network Notebook | July 2016

How to Motivate Emerging Leaders

Build meaning with a focus on “service, growth, and communal success,” says author and management expert Jim Collins. He elaborates in a probing speech to the Global Leadership Summit. An excerpt:

What can we do to reinforce the idea that we only succeed by helping each other?

Over the years, Ben & Jerry’s earned a strong reputation for social mission. A wide-ranging interview with CEO Jostein Solheim explains how the company retained this focus, even after selling to Unilever in 2000. Solheim says:

When companies come to the world of corporate social responsibility, they ask themselves, ‘What do people really care about? And how can we be a part of that?’ At Ben & Jerry’s, we come at it the other way. We actually ask ourselves, ‘What do we truly believe in — us?’ And then we execute well, because we truly believe in it, and hence, convince others to join us.

What it Takes to Win a Proxy War

Few can speak to this better than Ellen Kullman. Last year, the former Dupont CEO won a hard-fought, proxy battle against activist investor Nelson Peltz, who campaigned publicly for board seats and a company split. Before finishing her victory lap, however, Ellen retired to the surprise of nearly everyone except her board. The United Technologies board member reflected recently on the toll proxy wars take on CEOs, the merger with Dow Chemical, and life after retirement, which includes advising Silicon Valley startups, according to her first interview since stepping down. She says:

Activists are creating too much of a focus on short-term earnings and cutting long-term investment. I do think it’s bad for our economy, but they have the ear of these large institutional investors who are looking for returns for their clients. The quandary comes in that if they only focus on their shareholders, [the company] is going to do well for three years, maybe five, but to have sustainable value, you have to make investments.

Seeing Past the Hype of Pokemon Go

We learned @a16z last year how tools of the future workplace often resemble gadgets for today’s hipsters. Never has this been truer than with Nintendo’s augmented reality game that has approximately 9.5 million daily active users in the US alone. This is no fad, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who are bullish on the various industrial applications of augmented reality. From their interview that predicts widespread adoption in 24 months:

If you can take the cycle time of repairs on a utility or LNG plant or refinery down by 10% – meaning you can fix everything right the first time, you can visualize the human-data interface – that’s probably worth $50 billion.

A Brexit Inspired Memo to Millennials

Much of the coverage from Britain’s historic decision to leave the EU focused predictably on market winners and losers or geopolitical risk. More interesting, perhaps, is former PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian, who finds disturbing generation gaps in the Brexit vote and 2008 financial crisis. Millennials, he argues, get the “short end of the stick” from older generations over-leveraging their economic future, yet complacency among young voters is partly to blame. For example, nearly 75% of Britons ages 18-24 voted to remain, but only one-third of those registered turned out. He warns in a Project Syndicate op-ed:

Few politicians will champion changes that promise longer-term benefits but often come with short-term disruptions. And the older voters who back them will resist any meaningful erosion of their entitlements – even turning, when they perceive a threat to their interests, to populist politicians and dangerously simplistic solutions such as Brexit.

What Most People Get Wrong About Culture

Last year, The New York Times ran a critical if not misguided piece on how Amazon work culture makes employees feel. This highlights a common problem – companies defining culture too narrowly, limiting it to internal symbols and behaviors, says University of Michigan Business School professor Dave Ulrich. His brief outline in HBR explains how companies can rethink culture to win in the marketplace:

Level Three defines culture as the identity of a company as perceived by its best customers, representing an outside-in view of culture. For example, Amazon wants to be known for disciplined execution of customer purchases; Apple for design and simplicity; Marriott for exceptional service; Google for innovation; and so forth. These brands or identities then become infused throughout the company through how employees think, behave, and feel.

The Next Big Challenge at Ford

Ride sharing? Tighter emission standards? Guess again. It’s traffic, says Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who expects the number of cars on the road to double by 2030. In anticipation of congestion from global population growth and urban migration, the iconic carmaker invests in connected technology that may “greatly enhance” point-to-point travel, Ford says in a Bloomberg interview. He adds:

We’re going to clean up cars, and I love that we’re doing it, but a clean traffic jam is still a traffic jam. We have this other looming issue coming at us that people are not thinking about.

To drive this bold, new endeavor, Ford chose a proven leader with unconventional experience, former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett, now chairman of Ford Smart Mobility. How does making office furniture relate to the future of mobility? A recent profile on Hackett offers some insight:

Ford sees an analogy between the way modern work spaces have evolved and the way the transportation grid is progressing as a result of digital technology and the sharing economy.